Elizabeth Bennet, Zombie Slayer (maybe Vampires, too)

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I don’t think the book is meant as costume inspiration, but what other excuse do I have to combine my desire for a Regency dress with my desire to carry a Katana sword?

Taking a break from Steampunking, I decided to clear my mind with something white, simple, and decidedly non buckle-y.

I started with this pattern, which I’ve been wanting to try for at least  five years.

Yesterday and today I’ve made most of the half-corset and shift.  Pictures will be posted later.  I was really impressed with how easy this pattern was, and highly recommend it.  It even fit me on the first try without the tinkering Simplicity patterns usually require (especially for corsets).  The only thing that went wrong was that I sewed one of the underarm gussets in the wrong way around; but that’s normal when it comes to me and gussets!  I just don’t do them enough, and they always seem so simple (and they are, really) that I get overconfident and stop paying attention to what I’m doing.  I’m making my shift longer than the one pictured; the dress fabric is so thin that I want a bit more coverage – it would look weird to have half my legs semi-visible.

For the dress itself, I’m thinking very simple and white, something like the pictures I have posted on the page for the “1800s White Dress”.  I want a Spencer jacket, but I’m still figuring out the design.  I like these:

The back of this is just too cute!

I like how this one unbuttons to show off the front of the dress.

This one is probably my favorite so far.  Love the buttons down the side and the military look.  Maybe I’ll do something like this, only with the back of the first jacket?

I know I want a dark color for the fabric.  Maybe this green, or a dark red? If I can, without ruining the line of the jacket, I’ll slip in a few pockets for a zombie slayer’s tools of trade.

I found really great shoes on ebay.  $7.  I like the bit of a heel, and some extant shoes I’ve seen have had little heels, so I think it’s okay that they aren’t perfectly flat.

And bonnets.  Oh joy!  I have always wanted to wear a pretty poke bonnet, but none of my previous costumes have allowed me to possess one.  This is a sad lack, which I intend to make up for right away.

I found this fabulous site that shows how to create an authentic-looking bonnet for cheap.  Cheap is good.  I already have a straw hat of the sort you begin with, so it will be just the cost of ribbons and flowers…most of which, I probably already have squirreled away, depending upon what colors I choose. Link to bonnet site

This site even has a video tutorial for bonnets.  I love this person, whoever she is!

Pretty Pictures

While trying to figure out what I want my dress to look like, I found these pictures:

Since most of the gowns I like best are from around 1810, that’s the period I’m aiming for.  Now, on to the pattern.  If you do a search for “regency pattern” you’ll get linked to the “Sense and Sensibility” patterns most often.  I considered buying that pattern, but whenever I look at the gowns that are actually sewn from those patterns, they don’t look quite right.  I suspect it’s because few of those women are wearing the correct period undergarments, but it’s still making me wary of the patterns – even on the pattern-maker’s website, she has models in modern variations of the Regency era.  I don’t want to pay $16 for a modern look, so I decided to pass.

Instead, I’m going with Folkwear’s  #215 Empire Dress pattern.  I’ve seen a number of costumers use this pattern for Regency wear with excellent results.  And I’ll be only using it as a general starting point, anyway.  I have a couple of Simplicity not-so-historically-accurate Regency gown patterns as well, so I’ll probably sort them out together and do a bit of mixing and matching.

For the Spencer Jacket, I’ve selected the Rocking Horse Farm Pattern:

Shift and Corset

All corset should be this easy to sew!!!  Since I’m not particularly “fluffy” on top, and I used a really stiff duck canvas as the lining, I didn’t even bother putting in boning.  From what I’ve read, many period women didn’t either.  It’s basically a sport bra with the lift-up of an underwire…without the discomfort of an underwire!  Very seriously cool.

The new shift is underneath, the sleeves still need to be hemmed (right now they’re just folded in and pinned).

The shift is still not hemmed, as well.

And the back view….

And the side.

And hey, I just realized…since it’s most handy to my studio (that’s my studio window in the photo) I’ve been taking these costume pics in the exact same place.  You can literally watch my garden grow.  🙂 Maybe by the time I finish the gown, the peonies and roses will be blooming!

Peonies Blooming…

And the bodice of the gown is just about done.  I just have one more sleeve to finish!

It’s the sleeve on the right that’s finished, by the way.  The skirt is not at all done; it’s not even started.  I just pinned some fabric very roughly in place and wrapped a ribbon under the bust to hold the bodice gathers in place temporarily.

Side view:

It’s hard to tell in the picture, but there are three wooden buttons on each sleeve, with a loop of white ribbon looping over them to “puff” the sleeve.  It was…interesting…figuring that design out.  The pattern suggested it as a “period alternative”, but I’m still not sure I got it quite right.  Oh well, it looks really good, and since most women made their own clothes during this time, I imagine there was a lot of figuring things out on the fly.

Back view:

And please do admire those buttons!  🙂  More wooden ones, to match the ones on the sleeves. I’m getting pretty good at buttonholes.  They almost don’t freak me out anymore.

In this picture, you can just barely make out the white-on-white embroidery on the fabric.

I can’t wait to start work on the bonnet – all this white sewing is getting old fast – but I’m going to force myself to finish the other sleeve and finish the skirt, first.

Here’s an unofficial poll:  Do you think the ribbon at the waist should be white (as shown) or another color?  I can’t decide.


I finished the other sleeve, and sewed on the skirt today (it still needs to be hemmed, once I decide upon the length).  And then, I had the first try-on!

Here’s a video:

I still have to decide what ribbon color…so far I’m getting no votes that agree!  I think it definitely does need a ribbon though, to help define the empire waist.

Also, I’ve been thinking about the whole “battle rips and blood-splatters” on this dress, and I’m highly reluctant to permanently deface this gown.  If I don’t, it’ll be available to wear for an Austen tea or somesuch elegant event.  So here’s the plan: I’m going to sew a false front panel and attach it to the ribbon waist.  I can splatter and rip that, but then, when Halloween is over, I can pull out the stitches and re-use the dress.  I’ve done a rough mock-up of the panel, and it looks good – like it’s really part of the dress.

Now I need to research what to use for blood.  Good thing I ended up with some extra of the white fabric.  I’ll be able to run some tests of color, texture, and splattering technique!

5 second search on google…

Did you know there’s a band called “Fake Blood”?  Two bands, actually.

First on my list, try this blood:

Soy Sauce Blood to Splatter

  1. Get the small plastic tubing and force it onto the end of the syringe. Use tape or glue to make this an airtight seal.
  2. Pour some soy sauce into a cup or bowl and add the red food dye. Add enough so the blood is dark red.
  3. Put the end of the tubing in the cup or bowl and pull back the plunge to suck up the blood.
  4. Use BLU Tack to clog the end of the tube. Make sure this is well clogged.
  5. Push on the plunger to release a spray of blood.

The Katana

Since the “buff n rub” stuff worked so well on plastic water guns for steampunking, I decided to give it a try for the sword.

I started with this, a cheap (very cheap) plastic Ninja sword.  You actually can’t tell in this photo how truly cheap it is.  Grey plastic for the blade, icky shiny metallic for the hilt, wrapped around with fraying black twine.

I tore all the twine off, and gave it a base coat of black Krylon paint.  Then I went to work with the Rub n Buff.

Much better!  I re-wrapped the hilt with black leather strips, and attached a tassel.

And then I added some blood.  I may add more later. 

Now I need to fix the scabbard.  I’ll have to do some research first…I’m not sure what sort of scabbard a Katana is supposed to have.

The Bonnet

I had a chunk of black and white stripe fabric left over from the pirate coat’s underskirt, so I decided to use that.  I also had lots of black grosgrain ribbon in various widths in my ribbon box, so a few of those, a few black buttons glued on for decoration, and huzzah!  One Regency bonnet.  It was so easy and fun that I may make up a couple others and list them on my etsy store!

I will also make a white lace mobcap for underneath, so that a bit of lace shows around my face.  I think that would be pretty. 

The Mob Cap

Looks good under the bonnet, doesn’t it?


And with time to spare, too. How unusual for me.

White on white, in the photograph you can’t really see the rips.  But there are several.  The smaller spots of “blood” don’t show up well either.  I decided to do a more ‘ladylike’ blood splatter – I did a test run of more comprehensive splatter and decided I didn’t like it as well.  I used a mixture of soy sauce and red paint, and it worked well.  Since the paint was a bit thick and I didn’t mix it entirely into the soy sauce, I ended up with a cool “clotted” look.  Little bits of brain, don’t you know!   I also didn’t have a syringe, so I mixed the blood in a small bowl, then dipped a small amount up with a spoon and sort of snapped the spoon at the dress.  Good thing I was wearing old clothes, because I got a bit of backwards spray as well!  You know, if I were the neighbors, I’d be worried about me.    There’s always strange goings-on in my backyard!

Close up, showing the katana.

The back, with Katana.  Most of my Katana scabbard research showed very plain scabbards.   So I left it black, but fancied it up a little with criss-crosses of white ribbon.  This is my “dress” Katana, after all!

For jewelry, I’ll wear my little cross (period accurate), but I need to get a shorter chain.

Monday, August 3rd, I’ll be wearing this to work for “Dress Like Your Favorite Character Day”.  I’ve heard some library patrons discussing “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” just this week, so maybe a few people will actually know who I’m supposed to be.

Pictures of me in costume will be posted shortly afterward.

Finished & Modeled

So I wore this as planned to my workplace (a library) for “Dress as your Favorite Character Day”.  It was a big hit with the patrons – a couple even guessed who I was supposed to be!  🙂  One senior gentleman happened to have his camera and asked if he could take a picture.  Fun.

I promised pictures and here they are.  Bear in mind that we had to very little time after work to take them (and the person is charge of the camera is not very tech-savvy. At all.)  🙂

Yes, I have that expression on my face because I’m having to explain to press that little button on the top!  I’m wearing my katana, but only belatedly (as in just now) realized it doesn’t show up against the lush garden background.

Ah, there’s the katana!

And here’s a video of me.  Again, crappy camcorder and inept (but love-able) operator!


I’ll have to dress up in it again later and get some better pics and video.